American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, China, Kongur, Attempt from the North

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1984

Kongur, Attempt from the North. Ian Wade, Matt Wells, Dick Morse and I made an attempt on the north side of Kongur (7719 meters, 25,325 feet) during June. We spent some days probing various routes on the lower sections of the buttress attempted by the Japanese in 1981. Then we descended to try a smaller ridge farther west that promised a more rapid and less problematic access to the upper parts of the mountain. We left our 12,000-foot Base Camp on June 10 with 16 days of supplies and initially made an extra trip apiece between camps. We made our first camp at 15,000 feet, passed a steep 1200-foot ice face to camp at 17,000 feet and then dug a snow cave at 18,850 feet just below the ice cliffs that mark the terminus of an enormous snow basin. The basin led directly up to the col at the base of the summit ridge that was followed by Bonington’s group in 1981. It was also threatened by major avalanches from various directions. We gained the vertical ice cliff to gain the basin, placed two camps in the basin at 19,800 and 21,500 feet. We then angled up to intersect the summit ridge running west to the col. At a bergschrund at 22,500 feet at the head of the basin, I turned back with Wells, who was suffering from minor frostbite and exhaustion, to wait for a summit attempt by Wade and Morse. They intersected the summit ridge late the next day, June 25, at just over 24,000 feet, and could see as far south as K2. Wade wisely coaxed reluctant Morse to give up the attempt. Both were weak from the extended effort and were moving too slowly to reach the summit that day. We were plagued throughout by nearly daily snowstorms and the attendant buildup of deep snow. Post-holing was the rule above 15,000 feet even on what we had hoped would be the final wind-blown summit ridge.

Ed Newville

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